The New York Times today ran an article about class size in New York's public schools. The average class size at every grade level in NY has increased. Although the city does not have data for the overall average increase (the data would be meaningless because class sizes are different depending on the grade) the largest increase was at the 3rd grade level. Last year the average class size was 20.9 students. This year, the average 3rd grade class is 21.8 students.
Teacher's Unions frequently argue for reduced class size as one of the proven ways to improve student achievement. This makes good sense -- smaller classes are easier to manage and allow more one-on-one time between teachers and students.
The question I have is this: to what extent does class size impact student achievement? Does it help more to have moderately smaller classes than it does to have art and music teachers? Does it help more to have smaller classes than to have school psychologists and counselors and special educators? Not being an education researcher, I don't know. But my guess is that it would be better for kids to have the additional resources than it would for them to be in smaller classes. Obviously, there aren't infinite funds, so if we hire more teachers we have to cut something else.
At my school, class sizes tend to be between 25 and 30 (at least, my ninth grade classes are that size -- except for the brief period last year when I had 45 on a roster, which resulted in me throwing quite the hissy fit until they moved kids around). However, on a given day it is rare if I have more than 20 in the room. Now, it is easier to manage a class of 18 than it is to manage a class of 30. However, I would much rather have all 30 kids there every day than deal with the truancy issues. So my point is I'd rather keep the large class size and hire some attendance counselors and psychologists to help kids get to class. I'd rather keep rosters around 30 and hire art, music, and theater to allow our children to creatively express themselves. Hiring an extra math teacher to get my rosters down to 20 would be relatively useless because many of my children would continue to struggle with issues that I can't help them solve.
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